I haven’t checked Oliver’s hair for rice kernels yet but I know for sure some are stuck on the crotch and seat of his pants. Picture little kids that have been given spaghetti for the first time and you’ll have a reasonable idea of how things started out at the sushi-cooking class we attended this morning.
Germans hate getting their fingers dirty and balk at the idea of finger food in general (“Vhat? Vee must pick eet up wiz our fingers? Oh mein Gott!”). When the instructor started off by explaining that there would be no chopsticks offered, the looks of horror on the majority of the faces gave me a lovely warm feeling in deep black pit that is my heart. Sushi, he said, was fingerfood and would be so eaten today. Period. Ha!
(Oliver and I had once worked so hard on a dinner party for friends – going all over town to find ingredients and making the fajita tortillas from scratch because at the time none were sold in town – only to have our guests freak at having to negotiate the transfer of food from the table to their mouths without the help of heavy machinery. A few pathetic souls were scraping salsa from their plates onto chips with knives.)
At first many refused to be convinced that it was both sanitary and advisable to dunk their hands into the bowls of lemon-water before attempting to handle the rice and came away encased in edible mittens.
A few of those then panicked and tried to shake themselves free, hence the rice in my hair and Oliver’s crotch.
Olli told me once why there were very few places that offered all-you-can-eat buffets and why McDonalds doesn’t offer free ketchup or free refills:
Germans will take the words “all-you-can-eat” and “free” very very literally. They will come early and stay till closing and would likely stuff a steak or two in their purse or jacket pocket for that midnight snack and feel perfectly within their rights to do so. The draw of complimentary ketchup would also be too tempting for the cost-concious Krauts, they would stuff their purses, pockets and backpacks and use them at home instead of buying their own. The 25 cent cost keeps them honest and restrained.
We practiced making handrolls, tekka maki (cucumber rolls), sake makki (salmon), inside-out rolls (california and alaska) and nigiri (shrimp and calamari). No one was expected to eat all the sushi they made today, but that they supplied us with as many boxes as we needed to take home everything we made was also a surprise. No one seemed to count or even care how much some people were producing and setting aside.
The woman near me displayed clear signs of a hamster reflex: behind her was a stack of ten boxes of sushi containing 24 rolls each. She and her husband had planned ahead. They invited TEN people to dinner tonight to eat all of it, and spent the entire time feverishly rolling and snatching ingredients in order to meet their quota, squeezing every cent out of the cost of their enrollment. Most people went home with about three boxes each and were sternly told not to squirrel it away but to either E A T it tonight or toss it.
When I first began coming to Munich in 2000 there were very few sushi places to choose from. Most were so expensive, only the Japanese tourists could afford to eat there. Sushi&Soul, where our class took place, was one of the first Japanese restaurants opened with Germans in mind. German managers were in charge of our class and made it a totally enjoyable experience. Their enthusiasm and love for the food was contagious and their constant stream of jokes and goofing around kept the atmosphere surprisingly un-German and light.
Class started at 11 and by 12 they had us break for a wine tasting, taking us through whites, roses, reds and sparkling wines good for sushi, which was surprisingly informative and intoxicating (skipped breakfast). By 3:30 we were stuffed, buzzed, with sticky hands and dotted with rice. As a final little bonus, the instructors set out a huge box of little plastic fish-shaped soy sauce packets. Upon hearing the word “free’ all hell broke loose and people were scooping handfuls into their bags, emptying the box before two-thirds had had a chance to get near it.
They brought out a second box and posted a little Japanese cook next to it as sentry, assuring that the rest of the class got enough soy sauce to last – if not for next year – at least the evening.